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Summary – Does the teleological argument work?

David Hume said that a watch and an eye are not as similar as we might first have thought. A watch is mechanistic whereas an eye is organic. This means that we can’t be certain, just because we know a watch has been designed, that the eye had to have also been designed.

David Hume also said that at best the argument shows that the universe must have been designed. It doesn’t, though, guarantee that the designer was God.
Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution appears to have shown that the complexity of life can be explained without the need of a designer.

Many people think that God could have designed the process of evolution.

F R Tennant suggested that evolution can’t really explain why humans can appreciate beauty or enjoy music. He questioned whether blind evolution could really explain the human mind.


1. David Hume said that there were a number of problems with the design argument. Under the following titles briefly explain two of them.

(a) Problem one – the success of the analogy

(b) Problem two – who designed the universe?

2. Name two famous scientists associated with the theory of evolution.
3. Briefly explain why evolution is seen as a threat to the design argument.
4. Explain why it’s possible that St Augustine might have not rejected evolution if he was alive today.
5. What did the modern writer F R Tennant say about evolution?
6. Does the teleological argument persuade you that God exists? Explain your answer.
7. Another argument that is often used to encourage belief in God is known as the anthropic argument. Try to find out about this idea and write a short summary note about it. Appendix 2 will get you started.
When you write your notes make sure that you explain why people relate it to the argument from design. Explain why some people aren’t convinced that it shows that God must exist.
Does the anthropic argument make you think that God may exist?

Section 5

The problem of evil and suffering

Religious belief: The attributes of God – omniscient, omnipotent, and all-loving
Although evolution challenges the design argument, the biggest problem that believers face when defending it is how to reconcile the evil and suffering that exists in the world. If belief that God exists is based on our observations of the world, we must be willing to look at everything. We have seen clearly that the world is incredibly complex. If we keep looking we will also see without much effort that it is often incredibly cruel. Some of history’s most influential philosophers, for example David Hume, John Stuart Mill and Bertrand Russell, challenged the traditional idea of an all-powerful, all-knowing and loving God because of the problem of evil.
Philosophers of religion talk about two particular types of evil:
Moral evil – caused by human beings themselves

Natural evil – caused by the way things happen in our world.

Moral evil

Man’s inhumanity to man makes countless thousands mourn!’

Robert Burns
Moral evil revolves around humans doing evil things to each other. Bullying, theft, murder, rape, torture – the list is endless. Probably the most shocking example of moral evil was the Jewish Holocaust where over six million Jews were murdered by the Nazis. The extent of the suffering experienced by those involved is almost impossible to conceive. Sadly this genocide is not a unique event. Since World War Two there have been other examples, most notably:
• Between 1975 and 1979 a genocide in Cambodia resulted in the deaths of approximately 1.7 million people (21% of the country’s population)

• In 1994 at least 500,000 Tutsi were murdered in Rwanda (75% of the Tutsi population). All the killings took place in a three-month period, between the months of April and June.

• The USA has officially stated its belief that genocide is presently taking place in the Darfur region of Sudan (2005).
Ivan Karamazov – the suffering of innocent children
One of the most famous comments on the subject of moral evil is found in Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s classic novel, The Brothers Karamazov (1880). In one section two of the brothers, Ivan and Alyosha, discuss the problem of evil. It is in fact not so much a discussion as an angry rant against God by Ivan. Alyosha, a deeply religious man, is clearly troubled by his brother’s argument.
Ivan makes his point by dramatically telling Alyosha about various examples of incredible cruelty inflicted upon innocent children. He tells of an eight-year-old boy who accidentally hits and injures a dog with a stone. It turns out that the animal is the favourite dog of a cruel and powerful general. The boy is immediately taken away from his mother and locked in a prison cell. The next morning he is ordered to run as a pack of hounds are deliberately set after him. The boy is literally torn to pieces in front of his mother’s eyes.
Ivan tells others stories of horrendous cruelty. One of them was about a five-year-old girl who was subjected to torture and abuse by her own parents. ‘They beat her, kicked her, flogged her, for no reason that they themselves knew of. The child’s whole body was covered in bruises.’ The child was frequently locked up in the outhouse, even on the coldest of nights, ‘unable to understand what was happening’.
Ivan doesn’t actually conclude that God doesn’t exist. He decides, however, that he wants nothing to do with a God who has designed such a flawed universe, a universe with suffering children. He says that all he can do is ‘return his ticket’ in protest and reject God’s creation by killing himself. Many people, after reading the stories Ivan recounts, choose the more straightforward view that God simply never existed in the first place.

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